Breakdown: Why December may be the most wonderful time to look into the nights sky

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 2:22 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Get ready because December is going to be a great month to look into the nights sky. December contains the highly active Geminids to several close approaches of planets to the moon.

December 11th is the peak of yet another meteor shower in December: the Sigma Hydrid meteor shower. On this night, you can spot a few meteors per hour. The best time to try to see the meteors will be in the pre-dawn hours from 2:00am to 5:00am on the morning of 13th. However, you should be able to see some meteors after sunset on December 12th.

Just a day later on December 12th the moon and Venus will be nearby in the pre-dawn hours on December 12th. Venus and the Moon will pass less than 1°of each other in the sky. This will be a beautiful site to see a sliver of the crescent moon which will be only 4% illuminated as it appears near bright Venus.

Just two days later on December 14th, this will be the night to check out the Geminid meteor shower! The shower will be active from December 4- 17th. It will peak with up to 120 meteors per hour on December 13 & 14. Meteors will be coming from the constellation of Gemini look toward the northeastern sky. Meteor activity is expected to start between 9 or 10 pm. both nights. The Geminids are usually one of the best meteors shower of the year and the meteors are often bright and colorful. Moonlight could interfere as the moon will be 78% illuminated. The Geminids are caused by debris from an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon.

Another close approach will happen on December 16 of the Moon, Jupiter & Saturn. Jupiter and Saturn will move even closer in the night sky and will appear close to the Moon on the night of December 16th. The closest they will be at 1:00am on Dec. 17.

We go from a close approach to yet another meteor shower on December 19 which is the peak of the December Leonis Minorid Meteor Shower. This meteor shower is not as known and least active of the month, however it could be a nice celebration for the winter solstice that will occur on December 21st. It only produces about 3 meteors per hour and it will be low in the northwestern sky.

On this same night on the December 21, the Great Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn will be visible. The pair have been visible in the nights sky quite frequently over the past few months but this time they will be the closest to each other since 1623. This only happens every 19.6 years because of their orbital paths. This will be a great night to grab the telescope and see them both in the same view!

On December 22 the Ursids Meteor shower will peak but will be active from December 17th to 26th. On the night of peak, the Ursids could produce up to 10 meteors per hour. The Ursids will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor. Look for the North Star to find Ursa Minor, and then scan the whole northern.

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